Hello, I’m a Messy Bitch and This Is My Fuck Up Fund

Woman's feet stick out of a yellow washing machine in a Laundromat - why messy bitches need a fuck up fund

I stop in my tracks, my brain registering some sensory input: my backpack is too light. 

I swerve out of the pathway of the busy marketplace at FinCon (a personal finance media conference). I unzip my bag and frantically search each pocket. 

It takes just one pass to know that what I’m looking for, my laptop, isn’t there — but still I search again.

My messy bitch move: losing my laptop

Finally convinced the laptop isn’t in my backpack, I start running through the familiar protocol, re: misplaced personal belonging. After a lifetime of regularly losing and misplacing stuff, I know the drill. 

I retrace my steps, ask conference staff, rack my memory to the last time I had my laptop, check with my friend whose hotel room I’d visited an hour before if it’s there. I check lost-and-founds and leave them my phone number, just in case it turns up.

Finally, I’ve done what I can and all that’s left is to hope my laptop will find its way back to me.

24 hours later, I’m less optimistic. My computer hasn’t turned up yet, and it’s starting to feel unlikely that it will.

I give myself a couple of hours to be truly grumpy about it and spend a fair amount of that time berating myself. But then I pull myself together and try to shake it off. Losing my laptop sucks, but I don’t want to pile on by letting it ruin this conference for me.

No sweat, I’ve got my Fuck Up Fund

Plus, I’ve got a major thing working in my favor that makes it easier to take the loss of my laptop in stride: My Fuck Up Fund.

I wasn’t born yesterday and I’m certainly not new to the messy bitch lifestyle. So for years, I’ve to set money aside to cover the cost of my worst mistakes and failures.

This, friends, is my Fuck Up Fund.

While I’m super disappointed my laptop is gone, I already know that thanks to my Fuck Up Fund, I can afford to replace it if needed.

Why would I need a Fuck-Up Fund?

The Fuck Up Fund all began when I lived in a Los Angeles apartment with no parking spot. I was forced to park on the street, which was mostly okay (helped me get my steps in, anyway).

Except that twice a week, I had to move the parked car out of the way for scheduled street sweeping: Wednesdays on one side and Thursdays on the other. If I didn’t move my car on time, I’d get stuck with an $86 parking ticket.

I tried everything I could think of and more to make sure I did so. I’d skip convenient spots if I knew they were subject to parking restrictions the next day, circling the block to find a safer space. I set multiple phone alarms and reminders to move my car, and my husband did, too. 

And for someone else, that would probably have been enough. 

But as I’ve told you, I’m a bit of a messy bitch. My brain and my life just don’t always work that smoothly, ya know? (If you know, you know.)

And sometimes, even my best efforts still weren’t enough. I’d spot the envelope tucked under my windshield wiper from down the street and my stomach would lurch with disappointment and embarrassment. It’d throw me into a funk for the rest of the week.

After getting my third ticket in a year, I knew something had to give. 

Because I’m a messy bitch — and that’s ok

The author poses awkwardly with a silly face in front of a wall of greenery

At the time of dealing with parking ticket after ticket, my messiness was a painful source of shame and embarrassment. I felt like a stupid, annoying, burdensome failure whenever a preventable oversight like this cost me and my family money. I often still do.

But I was also forced into some selfawareness: I am a messy bitch. And I was starting to accept that maybe that wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Sure, I’m kind of just sloppy by nature.  I forget things sometimes. I misplace items. I’m less organized and able to stick to a schedule or routine than others. But there’s no inherent value judgment in those facts. 

In many ways, it would be convenient and helpful if I could more effectively manage my shit. But the times I can’t or don’t? That’s not an indictment on me, a derogatory mark on my character, a subtraction from my worth as a person. 

It’s just part of being me, and it’s ok.

Accepting (and planning for) my messiness

If I could accept the reality of my finances and how I work, then I could compensate for it in more meaningful ways.

Once I let go of preventing this cost as the only possible solution, it occurred to me that I could simply plan for it. So I added a line item to the budget: $20 per month for parking tickets.

Slowly but surely, this line item in my budget grew into a full-blown Fuck Up Fund. Today, I’ve saved up and set aside a decent amount in a separate account to cover most of the minor fuck-ups I manage to get up to.

It’s not enough to fully replace a MacBook Air in kind, but it’s definitely enough to buy a cheaper $200 Chromebook to tide me over.

My Fuck Up Fund is my failure insurance

Since then, I’ve tapped my Fuck Up Fund to smooth over a number of messes, silly moments, or general foolishness:

  • $65 to a locksmith when I locked my keys in my car
  • $280 summer camp that I registered and paid for — only to realize a week too late that I’d mixed up my dates and my daughter had completely missed it
  • $29 to HBO after I signed up for the HBO Go trial and forgot to cancel it within 7 day
  • $40 in late fees and cost to replace a library book, the fate of which remains a mystery
  • $35 per year to replace the cheap sunglasses I inevitably break or lose
  • $100+ to replace the cosmetics in the bag I left behind in a hotel room
  • $25 to get cookies delivered at 11:30 pm because I’m suggestible, follow too many food accounts on Instagram, and have poor impulse control

You get the idea.

The Fuck Up Fund isn’t a “Get out of jail free” card. It’s still on me to make concerted efforts to spend responsibly and keep my crap together.

But it provides a cushion for the times I’m trying and still fall flat on my face.

The Fuck Up Fund gives me a little insurance against the elevated chaos that comes with just being me. It’s my extra ammo against toxic financial shame that would make me feel less-than.

Fortunately, my laptop did eventually turn up — I’d stashed it behind a chair in my friend’s hotel room.

And my Fuck Up Fund is still intact, waiting for my next “messy bitch bill” to come due.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m craving cookies and have an online order to place. 

If you enjoyed this piece, I highly recommend these reads on other “funds” you might want to save as well:
A Story of a Fuck Off Fund by Paulette Perhach
How to Build and Opportunity Fund by Jim Wang
The Life Happens Fund by A Dime Saved

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Penny
    September 20, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Mmhmm. We don’t have a separate fund for this, but we definitely build our savings with this in mind. I’m *super* clumsy, so there’s a good chance I will drop and/or break something at any given moment. Ditto with our toddler. And my husband is a magnet for car incidents (plus he won’t fess up, but he’s usually responsible). So whenever I read about suggest savings amounts, I always, always, always add a few hundred dollars at least for our oops moments.

  • Reply
    Abigail @ipickuppennies
    September 20, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Ha! I think my savings account is my fuck Up fund. Like you, I’m a little sloppy or careless or whatever your want to call it (really, I’m just not great at details). So I leaned to make my peace with my fuck-ups a long time ago. It was that or go crazy. Well, crazier. Still I love the idea of a dedicated fund. I may have to start an Ally account for this.

  • Reply
    Michelle @ FrugalityandFreedom
    September 21, 2019 at 1:33 am

    I love this! I keep a “Fail Fund” when travelling – a little extra buffer in my budget to deal with surprise extra costs while on the road. Eg. the taxi taken from the airport when your flight runs late and the cheap public service has stopped for the night; the total misunderstanding of a menu and your meal turns out to be terrible; rebooking accomm elsewhere after your hostel is full of bed bugs. I might have to rename it to Fuck Up Fund! Great to meet you at FinCon and so pleased you got your laptop back!

  • Reply
    Educator FI
    September 23, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    This is a great idea to keep from beating oneself up over the little slips we all make! We don’t keep a separate fund for it, but we do keep a bit more than necessary in our checking account for those times when we miss something. It keeps us from sweating all the little details. So glad the laptop turned up!

  • Reply
    How Much Money to Save Each Month: How to Decide Brave Saver
    October 2, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    […] Fuck-Up Fund or similar buffer in your bank […]

  • Reply
    LJ Lyon
    October 2, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    But the laptop…. the mystery is killing me. Where did you leave it or was it stolen?

    • Reply
      Elyssa Kirkham
      October 5, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      Yes – I mention at the end that it showed up! I’d left it in my friend’s room, but in a spot where she didn’t see it until checking out. She made sure it got returned to me 🙂 So a very happy ending there

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